The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.
Subscribe to The Downballot, our weekly podcast
● FL-09: Former Osceola County Commissioner John Quiñones, who had reportedly been gearing up for a bid against Democratic Rep. Darren Soto, officially kicked off a bid on Tuesday in the hopes of putting a traditionally left-leaning seat in play for Republicans.
Joe Biden carried the Orlando-area 9th District 58-41, but Soto defeated an unheralded Republican foe by a smaller 54-46 last year. Florida data analyst Matthew Isbell also says that GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis actually carried the 9th 50-49 over Democrat Charlie Crist in 2022, while Democrat Val Demings edged out Republican Sen. Marco Rubio just 51-48. Republicans naturally hope that the midterm results, combined with their increased success with Florida Latinos in recent years, will give them an opening.
Quiñones ran for this seat once before in 2012, a campaign that did not end well. Concerned about his possible appeal to the many Puerto Rican voters in the district—Quiñones was the first Republican of Puerto Rican descent elected to the state House—Democrats successfully kneecapped him ahead of the GOP primary. They did so by deploying tactics similar to those famously used by Claire McCaskill to propel Todd Akin to the Republican nomination for Senate in Missouri that same summer (and would become especially popular among Democrats nationwide in 2022).
Painting Quiñones as a tax hiker and pretending to attack his tea-partying rival Todd Long as someone who "will never compromise with President Obama," Democrats helped Long win a 47-28 victory. He then predictably got crushed by Democrat Alan Grayson (who was waging a comeback campaign after getting turfed out in the 2010 GOP wave) by a 63-37 margin. Quiñones, meanwhile, lost his bid for reelection to the County Commission two years later and hasn't been on the ballot since.
Since then, however, voting patterns among Latinos have shifted dramatically in Florida. According to the progressive data firm Catalist, just 44% of Latino voters in the state backed Crist last year, a drop from the 50% who voted for Joe Biden in 2020 and an even steeper decline from the 66% who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016.
However, that includes Florida's considerable contingent of Cuban Americans, who make up a plurality of Latinos statewide and are typically more conservative than other Hispanics. By contrast, in the 9th, where about half of all voting-age residents are Latino, Puerto Ricans make up at least half the district's Latino population, if not more. (Detailed census data on ethnicity for the nation's new congressional districts has yet to be released.)
Florida was also an outlier nationally, as Catalist's analysis shows: Latino support for Democratic candidates for Senate and governor in every other state matched or even exceeded 2020 levels. The central question for Democrats and Republicans alike, then, is whether Florida represents the start of a new trend, whether it will continue to stand on its own, or whether it might even return to its previous form.
● MT-Sen: The deep-pocketed Club for Growth suggested on Monday that it might backtrack from its previous statements indicating it would once again support Rep. Matt Rosendale if he were to launch another Senate bid. Club president David McIntosh told reporters on Monday that he thinks wealthy businessman Tim Sheehy, the favorite of Mitch McConnell and the NRSC, is an "impressive candidate" while saying of Rosendale, "We're proud of what he's doing in the House."
In February, however, McIntosh was much more enthusiastic about the congressman. "If he decides to run, we'd want to support him again," he said. McIntosh insisted in his latest remarks that the Club might still back Rosendale but was still waiting to see whether he decides to challenge Democratic Sen. Jon Tester a second time.
● KY-Gov: Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is seeking to rebut Republican attacks with a new TV ad in which he says, "I've never supported gender reassignment surgery for kids, and those procedures don’t happen here in Kentucky." Earlier this year, the state's Republican-run legislature overrode a Beshear veto of a sweeping anti-trans bill that, among many other things, bans such surgeries. However, Beshear has steadfastly opposed these surgeries, and according to a recent fact-check of GOP ads by the Louisville Courier Journal's Joe Sonka, LGBTQ organizations in the state do so as well. Sonka also reported that "there is no record" of gender reassignment surgeries for children "ever happening in Kentucky."
● AZ-03, CA-Sen: The labor-backed Working Families Party this week endorsed former state Sen. Raquel Terán, who is seeking Arizona's open 3rd District, while its California branch gave its backing to Rep. Barbara Lee in the state's open Senate race. The WFP's endorsement often comes with material support, particularly through its ground game, and commonly goes to particularly progressive candidates.
● CA-22: A consultant for Democratic Assemblywoman Melissa Hurtado, who is reportedly preparing to enter the race for California's 22nd Congressional District, confirms to Politico's Jeremy B. White that her client is "taking a look at this seat." A Hurtado bid would set up a clash with a fellow Democrat, former Assemblyman Rudy Salas, in the contest to unseat Republican Rep. David Valadao.
● NY-03: A second notable Republican has entered the race to unseat the chair of the Congressional Con Artist Caucus: Businessman Mike Sapraicone, a former detective with the New York City Police Department, announced a challenge to Rep. George Santos on Tuesday. Endorsing Sapraicone as part of his kickoff was former Sen. Al D'Amato, once a titanic figure on Long Island politics who lost his bid for a fourth term to Chuck Schumer in 1998 by a 55-44 margin. Already running in the GOP primary is former investment banker Kellen Curry, an Air Force veteran who actually outraised Santos in the most recent fundraising quarter, $195,000 to $162,000.
Three noteworthy Democrats are also vying for the chance to replace Santos. Nonprofit founder Zak Malamed led the pack in fundraising in the second quarter with a $417,000 haul, while former state Sen. Anna Kaplan took in $249,000 and Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan raised $193,000. A number of other candidates from both parties continue to consider the race.
● NY-04: Democratic state Sen. Kevin Thomas, who's reportedly planning to run against Republican Rep. Anthony D'Esposito, now says he'll make an announcement "[i]n the coming days." Thomas became the first Indian American member of the New York Senate in 2018 when he unseated a Republican incumbent and would likewise be the first Indian American to represent the state in Congress. D'Esposito will be a top target for Democrats next year: His Long Island-based 4th District voted for Joe Biden by a 57-42 margin, making it the bluest seat held by a Republican in the country.
● OH-13: Republican Chris Banweg, a councilman in the small suburban city of Hudson, has filed paperwork with the FEC ahead of a possible bid against Democratic Rep. Emilia Sykes in Ohio's swingy 13th Congressional District. Banweg does not yet appear to have said anything publicly, however, and his campaign website only mentions his current post. Attorney Madison Gesiotto Gilbert, who lost to Sykes in an open-seat race last year, is running again but has raised just $81,000 so far for her second campaign despite hauling in more than $2 million last time.
Another 2022 candidate, attorney Greg Wheeler, is also trying once more. Despite being badly outspent in 2022, Wheeler lost the GOP primary to Gesiotto Gilbert by a relatively close 29-23 margin, with the balance going to five other candidates. Wheeler's fundraising this year has remained anemic but he's actually raised more than Gesiotto Gilbert, bringing in $122,000 to date.
● OH Ballot: An amendment that would enshrine the right to an abortion in the Ohio constitution will go before voters in November after Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced Tuesday that organizers had collected a sufficient number of signatures to qualify for the ballot. A separate measure that would legalize recreational marijuana, however, fell just short, though advocates will now have the opportunity to make up the gap.
Abortion rights supporters had gathered more than 710,000 voter signatures, of which 496,000 turned out to be valid—well above the 413,000 required to put a constitutional amendment before voters. A recent independent poll showed the amendment with wide support, with 58% in favor, including a third of Republicans, and just 32% opposed. Republicans are trying to thwart the effort by asking voters to support a different amendment known as Issue 1 on Aug. 8 that would require future amendments to garner 60% support instead of the current simple majority, but the same poll showed that measure failing by a 59-26 margin.
Proponents of the marijuana initiative had a lower threshold to hit, since their proposal would not amend the constitution but instead is statutory in nature. Of the 222,000 signatures they submitted, 123,367 passed muster—just 679 fewer than they needed. Under Ohio law, organizers now have 10 extra days to find the additional signatures they need. "[T]his is going to be easy," said a spokesperson in a statement, "because a majority of Ohioans support our proposal to regulate and tax adult use marijuana." Polling from Civiqs shows that two-thirds of Ohio voters believe "the use of cannabis should be legal." If supporters are successful in making up their shortfall, the measure would also appear on the November ballot, though it would be unaffected by Issue 1 either way.